Economic review

Highest U.S. trade deficit in 9 years reported

2018-02-08 13:14:00 (Beijing Time)         China Daily

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The United States saw its largest trade deficit in nine years in 2017, jumping 12.1 percent to $566 billion.

Its trade deficit with China increased by $28.2 billion to $375.2 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department's report released on Tuesday covering the country's international trade in goods and services.

In December alone, the U.S. deficit grew by 5.3 percent to $53.1 billion. But the US-China trade deficit declined 13 percent in December due to a 7.5 percent jump in U.S. exports and a 7.6 percent fall in imports.

The Commerce Department's report shows that much of the U.S. trade deficit resulted from strong import demand in the country.

The U.S. has been running a constant trade deficit since 1976, with trade deficits with 99 trading partners in 2016.

A surging economy and the tax cut bill that came into effect in January have both contributed to increasing the U.S. trade deficit, complicating U.S. President Donald Trump's promise to bring it down.

"The larger U.S. trade deficit is absolutely not the fault of China or Mexico," said Gary Hufbauer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Hufbauer, former deputy assistant secretary for international trade and investment policy of the U.S. Treasury from 1977 to 1979, said the large deficit simply reflects the strong dollar in the first half of 2017 and the strong U.S. economy.

"If Trump once again blames trade agreements, other countries should tune him out," he told China Daily on Tuesday.

The Trump administration has repeatedly talked about fair and reciprocal trade as a way to blame the U.S.' trade partners for its trade deficits.

Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said that Trump has never made demands or given details of what an acceptable trade imbalance should be.

"A truly fair and reciprocal trade will not have zero trade imbalance. That doesn't make any sense," he said on Tuesday.

Scissors said that U.S. consumers have much higher purchasing power than any other consumers in the world. "Of course we will run a trade deficit," he said. "The U.S. economy is much greater than, much richer than and growing faster than the Mexican economy. How is it that Mexico can buy as much from the U.S. as the U.S. buys from Mexico? That obviously doesn't make any sense."